I truly believe that most people quit woodworking because they don’t ever get started. Obsessing over the perfect workbench and buying too many used hand tools can lead to this problem.
You should dedicate a weekend to build your workbench. Get it done and stop over thinking.
And then another weekend should be all you need to get your tool kit put together.
Buying used hand tools can be addictive. But whilst it’s nice stacking up with loads of old stuff, you’ll soon realise the work needed to get it all going and it becomes more of a stress than the hobby or passion that it should be.
Old tools can still be the best place to turn for certain bits in your kit. The key is to be mindful of what you’re searching for so you don’t become burdened.
Old Hand Tools That Aren’t Worth The Bother.
Strangely, overall it’s not your run of the mill tools that I’d look out for second hand.
New chisels like the Narex for example, they’re so good, so cheap and they come out of the box ready to go. There’s not much point in dedicating yourself to flattening off old chisels, not mentioning all of the equipment you’re going to need to do it.
Saws are another that I would avoid second hand. You can get old saws for ten a penny but you’ve got to be careful that you don’t end up with a rusty collection all in need of restoration.
If I do make it out to used tool sale the stuff I’ll be on the hunt for will either be the more consumable bits, or they’ll be specialist.
Buying The Consumables
Old Plane Blades
You might buy old tools because they’re cheap, and you might buy them because they’re collectable. For the most part though I love used hand tool sales because I love old iron.
The softer laminated steel of an old plane blade isn’t something I can turn down.
This might be old irons to fit my Stanley No. 5, as I burn through them and like to keep at least a couple set up for different cambers.
And it’s usually not hard to find the plane blades from old wooden planes either. If you’re lucky they’ll be laminated.
If you’ve been contemplating building your own wooden hand plane, then I’d definitely be on the lookout for a nice iron for your build.
Old Drill Bits
On a similar theme If you can find nice old augers that can fit in to a hand brace then I would always consider buying stuff like that.
Old Oil Stones
Since it’s become the in thing to use hard steels for cutting edges something I’m always keeping an eye out for are old sharpening stones. Buying oil stones new now has become very limiting but you’d be surprised with what you can get when you start to consider going old. If you can find a real nice finishing stone for example then you’ll go home chuffed.
Buying For The Beginners’ Kit
Your Hand Plane
I’d certainly avoid trying to get all of your starter tool kit old because certain tools are just easier to buy new.
But the most important tool in your beginners’ kit to get right is your hand plane. Choose the right Jack plane and get set up with a multitude of irons to allow it to cover all of your planing needs. That tool will live in your hand.
It’s not essential to go old, but if you get the opportunity I’d keep an eye out for any old Record, or Stanley planes. The old lightweight Bailey plane is the ideal workhorse. I wouldn’t go any bigger than a No. 5 in length but I would consider a No. 5 1/2 if there was a nice one.
Drills. (Hand Braces & Egg Beaters).
It can be hard to get a good egg beater and I find it’s easy to burn through them. If you can spot a good one then go for it.
I don’t look for any particular brand, just for one where the chuck is working and has a nice smooth feel.
A nice brace is also worth picking up.
Your Router Plane
I consider the router plane a bonus in the beginners’ tool kit but if you can find one for a good price then I’d certainly consider buying.
They’re incredibly useful and a second hand tool sale is going to be the best place to find one quite cheap.
They’re such a simple tool that you should be able to get one that’s working well, just be sure that it has a depth adjuster on it.
The Speciality Planes
If you’re looking to expand beyond your beginners’ kit then an old tool sale can be the perfect place to find well priced yet usable joinery planes.
It’s the speciality stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily put on your desperate list but are very handy when they come in. If you looked to buy these new they’re going to get pricey.
A Plough Plane.
If you spot a good one at a good price then give it some thought. A good plough plane is perfect if you can see yourself making a lot of drawers.
New ones are dead expensive and can be mediocre. The old ones can demand a high price because of Ebay.
Hollow and Rounds.
These moulding planes don’t need to match to be useful. If you’re happy to pick them up at different sizes when you spot a good one, over time you can have a nice collection for very little cost.
Buying Used Tools To Modify
When I go to a used tool sale I tend to buy stuff that I don’t really need. I’m not hoarding but keeping an eye out for my mental log – a library of tools that are always handy as a basis to be adapted or set up for a very particular job.
I’ve done this a lot in the past with wooden rebate planes because they’re as cheap as chips and so versatile.
I have dozens of them and I’m forever modifying, you really can make owt out of a rebate plane.
If you’re lucky enough to get out to an old tool sale then go ahead and have a good rummage. The motto here is just be careful that you’re not overloading yourself with crap when all you’re really wanting to do is crack on with the woodwork.
And if you’re even more lucky and happen to be available to pop to Market Harborough this Saturday then you really should consider visiting Richard Arnold’s annual open day.
This is a charity used hand tool sale offering a huge range of old tools for a small donation.
There’s great company, an auction for the posh stuff and a chance to meet some great tool makers.
And when you thought it couldn’t get any better… you can even take your old crap along and offload it to the sales table.